Pac-12 Expansion: Texas A&M The First Domino To Fall, Oklahoma Ready To Tip Over

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the domino theory to describe the threatening encroachment of Communists in Asia, he really should have been looking closer to home and analyzed the behavior of major college football programs to provide support for his theories. Irrational actors, regional agendas, nationalist tendencies, institutional corruption, constant realignment--big-time college football had it all. If America had rephrased the question, "Should we intervene in Vietnam?" with "Should we intervene with the SEC?", I suspect we'd still have had our undefeated war streak standing tall.

And the Texas A&M Aggies are ready to get everything tilting once again. They're almost certainly headed to the SEC barring eleventh-hour shenanigans that will totally happen because they've always happened in these stories.

If shenanigans don't happen, Pac-12 expansion should be back on the table very quickly. Texas A&M's defection puts the Big 12 down to nine schools, and means they're pretty much finished as a big-time major conference. Texas was able to cobble the schools together for a short period of time, but hubris via the structure of the Longhorn Network appears to have irreversibly crippled their grand strategy. Now they're left to preside over a dying conference, like DJing a bingo meetup.

The Oklahoma Sooners will almost certainly be the ones making he next move. The defection of the Aggies would not be a death blow to the Big 12, but the potential defection of the Sooners certainly would be. Everyone knows that, particularly their best buddies in Texas.

Oklahoma should have little desire to stay in the Big 9 at this point. The losses of Colorado and Nebraska were tough enough, but taking away Texas A&M leaves the school with only (at best) three to four marquee conference matchups every season. Only the Texas game is really left that's a guaranteed national draw, which is a shame for a team that perennially hangs around the top ten a lot. The potential home slate has diminished to worse-than-Big East level (Baylor? Iowa State? Kansas? These are round robin matchups you'd pine for?), and any future Big 12 TV contracts would be amateur hour compared to what Oklahoma would've gotten the first time around.

The other possibility for Oklahoma (staying in the Big 12 and getting their own school network, a Sooner Network of sorts) has appeal, but isn't terribly attractive in the long-run. Even if Oklahoma were to bargain for their own TV network, it's highly unlikely they'd come close to matching the coup Texas put together from ESPN. The Sooners might be able to distribute their content in a similar package, but considering the trouble the Longhorn Network is having in ensuring cable and satellite providers, you'd expect the Sooner Network would suffer from similar shortcomings.

The money is in the Pac-12. The television contracts Commissioner Larry Scott put together ensure the possibility of an even better deal down the line, and more money for everyone. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are guaranteed a regional network of some sort to go along with the current six networks already set in place. Their addition ensures further distribution of the Pac-12 National Network, which would now encroach upon almost every Western and Rocky Mountain State, and the potential for as many as two others.

Football-wise, Oklahoma also knows that in a Pac-16 Eastern Division, they'd be in contention for a conference title almost every season, just like the old Big 12. This super conference arrangement benefits them in many more ways than staying in their current conference would. Which is why the Pac-14 is likely to become a reality ... at least until two more teams can be found, and the final Pac-16 is put into motion.

It has to be a curious fate for the Texas Longhorns to be stuck watching everyone else plan their escape route away from the Big 12. But A&M is out and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State are likely on their way out. Texas will be stuck in a dead conference if that happens, and they'll have to work on their own exit strategy to stay relevant in the college football landscape.

Now Texas has to look out for Texas, and figure out what their next step is. Would they be willing to concede the Longhorn Network as currently constructed to join the Pac-12 and ensure a place in the world of the likely super-conferences? Or will they make a bid for independence, take their money from their deal with ESPN, and hope that the world of the super-conference will still have a place for them to make an impact?

There are pros and cons to either approach, but the long-term option seems to favor Pac-12. Only ego and greed would keep Texas from heading West, and those are things Texas proved in the last negotiations that they possess in spades. But the Longhorns have to know they've been given a second (no, really a third) chance to join a conference they've always wanted to be a part of. There's pretty much no guarantee a future invitation will be extended, as the Pac-12 could move quickly to find additional teams to add, Texas be damned.

The dominoes are ready to fall. And by the time they're all lying face-down, college football could be very different. As will the Pac-12.

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